Celebrate your garden with pride

Laura Flint with her plants at her family home in Hout Bay.

For the past four years, Garden Day has been held in October to encourage people to share their love of plants and to celebrate their unique green spaces and gardens.

It is an initiative created by the gardening app, Candide, which provides gardeners with information, knowledge, and inspiration.

“From keepers of rolling lawns, community gardens, and vegetable patches to potted window sills, patio planters, and urban rooftops, the annual celebration is calling on plant lovers to put on a flower crown, down tools, and enjoy the fruits of their labour,” says Garden Day Flower Crown Ambassador, Constance Stuurman.

Garden Day will be especially poignant this year, as lockdown allowed many South Africans to turn to their green spaces, whether in luxuriant rolling gardens or in simple windowsill pots, to find solace and balance.

“Gardening has boosted mental and physical well-being and created a sense of belonging and connection. It has benefited people in many different ways,” Ms Stuurman added.

According to a recent survey by Candide, 96% of people said they felt happier when spending downtime in their gardens. The findings also revealed the most popular garden activities are spending time in a favourite spot admiring plants, listening to birdsong and watching the wildlife, breathing in the fresh air and garden scents, enjoying a cuppa and a chat, taking me time with a quiet bite to eat, playing with the children, reading a book, or lazing on the grass.

The Happiness Effect of Gardens survey was conducted in November 2019 and measured responses from about 1 750 subscribers.

Falling off a horse brought Hout Bay’s Laura Flint down to earth in more ways than one.

Recovering from severe head injuries that led to seizures, anxiety disorder, double vision and memory loss, she rekindled a childhood love for gardens and an appreciation of gardening as a means to escape boredom during long days at home.

For Ms Flint, gardening became something of a therapy and, as it turned out, a way to connect with her environment and her community, and to make new friends.

Ms Flint is also supporting the Garden Day movement, which will be held this year across the country on Sunday October 11 as a special occasion with a difference.

“I have always been an outdoor, tomboy kind of girl,” says the 26-year-old software designer who lives on a smallholding with members of three generations of her family in Hout Bay.

One of her best friends was the daughter of Liesl van der Walt, who became head gardener at Babylonstoren, the renowned fruit and vegetable estate near Paarl.

“Liesl grew an abundance of plants in her own garden and we spent a lot of time there. Later, I started collecting succulents but my real obsession with plants and gardening started when I fell off that horse in January 2018,” Ms Flint said.

She collected house plants, already accummulating more than 50 plants in her bedroom alone and also plans to grow the vegetable garden.

“This gave me something to focus on. It gave me a coping mechanism; it helped to distract me from my anxieties, and everything just grew from there,” she said.

Her indoor garden consists of a variety of plants, but she focuses on growing air purifying plants such as the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum).

To develop her vegetable garden, she researched what is known as the square foot method in which the area to be cultivated is divided into raised beds of that size, and in which a mixture of organic materials is added to the soil. Each bed is then planted with as many plants of a specific vegetable as it can comfortably accommodate.

Most of her vegetables are supplied to the household and sometimes to people who work on the smallholding, but as the garden develops she hopes to donate produce to a cook-up that supplies hot meals to needy people in the local community.

“I also have a grand plan to expand the garden by planting herbs, particularly medicinal herbs, and indigenous plants,” she said.

This year, Garden Day will include the first virtual Garden Day gathering with a host of events, including a Q&A session with garden guru, Tanya Visser, a celebrity flower “crown off” with actor and comedian Schalk Bezuidenhout and radio and television presenter Zoë Brown, garden-inspired gourmet cooking with Chef Karen Dudley and much more via Zoom and Facebook Live.

● Visit Gardenday.co.za for more information.